Labour Unions to Unite at Rally to Support Striking SLC Faculty

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Striking faculty at St. Lawrence College in Kingston

RELEASE — Striking college faculty will be joined by members of the Kingston area’s labour unions at a rally at St. Lawrence College on Friday to show support for the strike and to put pressure on the College Employer Council to return to the bargaining table.

Members of the area’s 40-plus labour unions will stand with picketing faculty at 12 noon at the college’s main entrance. Grant Currie, president of Local 417 of the Ontario Public Service Employees’ Union, said organized labour recognizes the importance of the fight against the “precarious labour model” that St. Lawrence College uses to abuse educators in the college system.

“Short-term workers suffer stress and strain trying to live from four-month contract to four-month contract while paid below-minimum-wage salaries—our fight is for the future faculty in the college system,” said Currie.

He said he hopes students, faculty, and support staff will also come to the noon-time rally to show support.

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MPP Sophie Kiwala speaks with striking faculty

Debi Wells, vice-president of the Kingston and District Labour Council, which represents more than 40 unions in the Kingston area and almost 10,000 local workers, said her members do not accept that precarious work has to be the new reality. She also said the council supports striking faculty and that they hope negotiations recommence soon.

“Labour councils and local labour unions understand that when employees are denied full employment, when they are not able to access benefit packages or pensions, when they are treated as a business expense that should be lowered, nobody benefits,” said Wells, who is also a member of the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario.

“Students certainly are worse off when the professionals guiding them through their studies are treated poorly, and a society that doesn’t value the education and well-being of citizens is simply not as good as it could be,” she said.

About 12,000 faculty, counsellors, and librarians at Ontario’s 24 colleges left their jobs October 16 after representatives of the college system refused to address their final offer. The key issues are academic freedom and precarious working conditions.

Striking workers want nothing more than to get back into their classrooms with their students.

Release and photos: OPSEU Local 417